Find Me

A girl is dead. A killer's closing in. And two words are the only clue… "Find Me".
These are the words that expert computer hacker Wick Tate finds in Tessa Wayne's diary before she’s found dead. Does someone really expect Wick to uncover the truth about her death?

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1. Chapter 1

I’m halfway through the remote computer’s firewall when Detective Carson parks on the other side of our street. This isn’t usually a time I like to be interrupted—actually, when I’m hacking, I never like to be interrupted, but because he makes my feet hit the floor so I’m ready to run, because he makes my heart thump bass lines in my ears, because it’s him and he’s back and I’m scared, I take a few minutes. I sit in the dark, watch the unmarked police car idle, and tell myself it’ll be okay.

After all, I’m prepared. I wired my foster parents’ security cameras to route the front yard video feed through my computer. I can see everything—the blacked-out sedan, the shadowy streetscape, the neighbors’ darkened houses—without leaving my desk. For a full five minutes, there’s nothing. No movement. No anything. This should be all kinds of uninteresting, but my palms still go slick.

It’s stupid to be scared. He can’t touch me now. Not when I have this shiny new life. My foster parents belong in a Disney movie. My sister and I live with them on the rich side of town. I’m not the same girl Carson turned in to social services.

Well, at least, that’s what I tell myself.

And, anyway, there could be plenty of reasons why he stops. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with me. He could stop because he’s been assigned to this area. Or because he lives nearby.

Or because he’s watching you. In my head, I smother the words, but they still squirm.

He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know. I flick my eyes back to the lines of computer code running across my monitor, but I can’t keep my concentration. I have to keep repeating keystrokes.

Carson’s told everyone he thinks Lily and I are his last links to tracking down our drug-dealer father. He might actually be right and that’s what really scares me. Because if my dad does come back, if he does see a policeman outside our new house, he’ll think I’ve turned into a narc. It’ll ruin everything.

Well, everything that’s left.

It’s so damn little I almost laugh out loud. Then I hear the car door slam and my heart rides up my throat with spurs.

He’s never gotten out before. I jerk my chair back to better face my monitor. It’s definitely Carson. I recognize his lanky build, the way his shoulders crouch underneath his Members’ Only jacket. He’s killed the sedan’s engine and gotten out, but it’s okay. Really. He’s just lingering by the curb.

It’s fine.

It is.

Until he starts moving toward the house.

I nearly overturn my chair. The wheels screech backward and my bare feet slap the floor. I’m standing now. I’m ready.

But I don’t know what I’m ready to do. If I go downstairs, I’ll have to use the windows to track him and he might see the movement.

But staying here’s no good. The security cameras only watch the front. The back and side yards are blind, which means I’m blind. I’ll have to wait for his moves, his decisions.

Yeah, there’s no way that’s going to happen.

I grab my baseball bat—the one I keep next to my bed, the one everyone thinks I have because I just love me some sports—and I go to my bedroom door.

And I can’t get my feet to move any further.

This isn’t how moments like these are supposed to go. My hands shouldn’t be shaking. I shouldn’t be Wick Tate, the girl I am. I should be the sister Lily deserves.

And I’m going to be. But the two feet of space between my body and the door might as well be two miles for all the good it’s doing me. I’m afraid. People like me were meant to stay behind computers. It’s where we belong.

I wrench the door open anyway. In the hallway, there’s only blackened silence, but the curtains drift like they’ve just been brushed and, somewhere downstairs, something creaks.

It ignites static inside my head, like my brain’s been suddenly tuned to a television channel filled with snow.

Adrenaline, I think, forcing one foot in front of the other. I’m kicking into panic mode, but it can be controlled.

And it will be controlled. I hoist the bat over one shoulder and start for the stairway. I make it almost to the top step before I realize I’m not alone. There’s a shadow sliding along the wall, inching up from downstairs. For a heartbeat, I think I might pass out.

It’s Carson. He’s already here. I’ve let Lily down. I’ve—the shadow creeps closer and I recognize the small, blonde person. She’s staring at me like I’ve lost my mind.

Lily’s face, pale as a moon emerging from behind clouds, floats out of the dark. “Wick? What are you doing?”

“Jesus, Lily! You scared the shit out of me!”

Lily steps forward, drawing close enough so I can see how she’s eyeing the baseball bat.

“What are you doing?” she repeats.

“We have a visitor.” Weird how my voice sounds flat and confident when my insides are churning and liquid. I push past her, telling myself I’m fine, and maybe I am. Maybe I just needed to see the last person I have left to lose.

I hustle down the stairs, one hand skimming the wall. “Stay put.”

But, of course, she doesn’t. Lily trails me so closely her toes brush my heels.

“What kind of visitor?”

I can barely hear her, but I know what’s she’s really getting at. Lily’s hoping it isn’t what I think, that there’s some pleasant explanation to all of this. It’s a fantasy I can’t afford. Actually, it’s a fantasy neither of us can afford.

I round on her. “Lil, it’s five-thirty in the morning. What do you think he’s here for?”

Even though it quivers, Lily’s chin lifts. “Maybe he’s here because he knows about your hacking.”

He couldn’t. “He doesn’t.”

“How can you be sure?”

“Because I am.” Mostly.

Below us, a dark shape sweeps past the windows. It hesitates near the front door and we watch something arch through the air.

It’s an arm. A hand. Carson’s checking the window lock.

Lily grabs for me and, for a beat, she looks far younger than eleven. “Wick, we have to wake up Bren and Todd.”

No way. No how. Our foster parents would have a flying duck fit. Bren and Todd have no clue any of this is going on and I prefer it that way actually. They don’t need to know about my little computer habits. They don’t need to know there’s a hollow-faced policeman coming by only at night. They already know enough—anything more and they might turn me in to the cops, and Lily back over to the state.

I’m not going to let that happen.

And why would anyone believe me anyway? Todd would probably insist on going out there. Words would be traded. I’d be dragged out there to give my version. Carson would have some sort of lie to explain everything away. The police always do. Then there would just be me left, looking exactly like the lying juvenile delinquent everyone already thinks I am.

“Wick!” Lily’s fingers dig in harder and I shake her off. “Call them,” she whispers and there’s a simmering hysteria in her voice I haven’t heard since the day the police came for our dad.

“Go back upstairs.”

“Call them.” Lily repeats it like a prayer, but it’s really a conjuring spell. My sister wants to summon some mythical parents to protect us, some powerful adults to make all the nightmares vanish. I don’t really blame her. It’s tough to feel safe when all you have is me.

“You don’t have to do this anymore,” she breathes, reaching for the bat.

I don’t have to do this? Well, isn’t that just the funniest joke I’ve ever not laughed at? If I don’t, then who will? Bren? Todd? I know Lily wants them to fix everything, but why should they?

Just because someone should protect you doesn’t mean they will. I almost say it, but I swallow the words. That’s not something I want Lily to know.

Even if I’m pretty sure she already does.

Lily plucks at my elbow. “He wouldn’t dare break in.”

And my brain agrees with her, but the rest of me...the rest of me believes he would dare. Cops don’t have to be careful with people like us. We’re the enemy. Lily and I may have a fancy new life, but maybe he knows what’s still inside us and that’s what makes me raise my bat. “You know as well as I do that they’re not always the good guys.”

Through the window, we watch Carson twist to the right. He hovers for a moment, like he heard something or thought of something, and then strides across the front of the house.

Where’s he going now? Confused, I press a little closer to the window, half-expecting him to jump back into my field of vision, horror movie style. If he does, I’ll scream like a total girl. I just know it.

I creep another inch closer and see the last of his shadow as he turns the corner of the house.

What’s he doing? There’s nothing around there except—the back door! I spin on my heel, my chest funneling shut. Did we lock the back door? Did we?

I seize Lily’s hand and drag her down the hallway, dodging Bren’s yoga gear and Todd’s line of penny loafers. You can barely see, but we move pretty quickly in the dark. We’re good at it. We’ve had practice.

We just haven’t practiced enough.

I see Carson pass the sunroom’s tall windows before we’ve even reached the end of the hall. He’s on the back steps, under the yellow porch light, by the time my feet hit the kitchen tile. I skid to a halt and Lily shrinks into my hip. There’s no sound except for our breathing: too loud and too harsh.

Outside, Carson presses one gloved hand to the window, shielding his eyes to look inside and, in the dark, my gasp is strangled.

He won’t be able to see anything. He won’t know we’re here. My brain repeats this, but my body creeps closer to the wall.

Carson’s hand seizes the door handle. The metal click clicks. He’s testing the lock and it’s holding. It’s holding. Thank God.

I almost sag in relief until I hear him laugh. Low and curdled, it sounds like it surfaced from some deep, dark place inside him.

Lily cringes. “Are you sure he’s only looking for Dad?”

“Yes.”

No.

She makes some impossibly small whimper, an animal sound, and I’m afraid he’ll hear it. He can’t. I know he can’t. But, when Carson tenses up, when his head tilts so his deep set eyes slide into blackened hollows, I wrap one arm around my sister’s thin shoulders.

I pull her closer and closer until I feel our bones meet through our skin. We stand in the dark and we watch him smile.

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